Do you know what to say or do when faced with a child living with life limiting cancer or grieving parents?
Can you imagine what it is like for children who are doing all they can to stay alive, to have to endure condescending pity, sympathy, and isolation?
Can you imagine what it is like for grieving parents to be left marginalised because of the fears of other parents? We all walk in this society together, no matter what we endure.
By illuminating these issues, Jennifer aims to diminish fear and selfishness and instead allow humanity, genuine care, and respect to prevail.
What usually helps a grieving parent or sibling
- Turn up. Broken heart emojis don’t cut it.
- Believe in them unconditionally. And tell them so..
- Ask them what you can do. Be aware its usually very little they expect. Often it is simply your presence. Loyalty is gold.
- No words can relieve their pain. Choose silence over words.
- Respect their pain. By even enduring this tragedy, they have developed a set of survival and adaption skills that no words can explain. Honour their strength and new wisdom
- Tell them you will miss their child. That the loss of their child will be felt by everyone who knew him/her.
- Cry with them if that is how you feel.
- Know that this grief and pain is eternal. If you tell a grieving parent it will get ‘better’, a parent who has lost their child can interpret this as you diminishing the love they have for their child. And it is crossing a sacred line.
- This doesn’t mean the parent will not continuously work for the most positive way forward. But not being able to see that their hearts are broken does not make it any less valid then life changing physical break in their body.
- Adjust your expectations – their hearts are broken permanently. Give them the grace as they learn every single day how to live a completely different life.
- Understand that they are also under immense stress and pressure – grief is not the singular emotion in this experience.
- Listen. Your presence without words is hugely comforting.
- Talk about their child (check first). Mostly, parents will yearn to hear your memories and hear the name of their child. And not just in the aftermath – but as their lives continue.
- Be open to the person they become. Grieving parents/siblings are extraordinary people to know and have in your life! All your inspirational quotes on social media feeds are what they actually LIVE!
- Those who suffer this level of trauma have learnt incredible survival skills especially in a world dominated by the superficial. lf anyone lives what truly matters in life, who respects the genuine worth of others, then it is the parent who has lost their child.
What usually does not help a grieving parent or sibling
- Judging their actions. This world is now very different for them. You cannot understand – and that’s ok. Simply respect their pain and know that they are doing all they can to keep going. Trust them
- Pitying them
- Expecting their grief or pain to end. It is eternal. This doesn’t mean they aren’t going to do their best to continue!
- Telling them it will get easier with time.
- Projecting your ideas of beliefs about grief onto them. Be aware of your own preconceived ideas on grief. Your own emotional disposition and your own bias.
- Telling them their child is in a better place. We don’t know where they are. And neither do you. This is not the time to project your religious beliefs onto them. Some may find comfort in their religion, but some will not, as they question their core fundamental beliefs living in the coalface of their tragedy.
- Giving them unsolicited advice – it is deeply offensive. They have a profound level of insight that is only earned by actually enduring this pain. Society can benefit greatly from this insight.
- Telling them it is a relief their child isn’t suffering anymore
- Telling them at least their child didn’t die suddenly. All circumstances when a child dies is unbearable. Please never, ever, compare them.
- Putting them in a position where they are forced to defend, explain, justify how they live, or how they continue to love their child, or how they endure.
One of the biggest and unspoken travesties of our time, is the medicalising and pathologizing of grief. And that must end to save and preserves the lives of those deeply grieving.
Grief has been cruelly displaced into this clinical sphere, and it only serves to dehumanise this natural response to catastrophic trauma. The consequent ripple effect has resulted in a society which has long accepted this orientation.
Grief is not a problem to be resolved. Grief is not a mental illness or an ailment to recover from and nor is it a linear condition that travels through an upward trajectory to a definitive end.
To deny the human experience of grief, is to deny the existence, depth and worth of love. These two most powerful forces are the foundation of humanity. They co-exist and are at the epicentre of the human living condition. Grief IS love.
THE TRUEST SOURCE OF KNOWLEDGE OF THE DEATH OF A CHILD IS LIVED EXPERIENCE
Apart from the diverse terrain and dynamics of individual personalities, numerous forces are at play causing the abandonment of grieving families. This includes the archaic and ingrained condition of a grief avoidant society and the avoidance of real and valid emotion. In addition, egos, arrogance, fears, and a self- absorbed, superficial society addicted to the next instant gratification, are all contributors.